Langdale is one of Lake District's most magnificent valleys. The climbing here is situated in stunning mountain scenery on a diversity of crags from roadside to high mountain, and features single pitch test pieces, long mountain days out and everything in between. Many of the crags are south facing and formed from excellent rough rock, the valley's popularity is further enhanced by its accessibility, numerous fantastic pubs and the total absence of precipitation. So does the new guide do justice to this?
It's immediately obvious that this is a very different affair from the FRCC's traditional offerings. One criticism of these guides in the past has been that, although very comprehensive in terms of information, they can be difficult to decipher if unfamiliar with the area covered. This problem has been thoroughly dealt with in the new edition. For ease of use the crags have been divided into eight broad areas described anti-clockwise around the valley: Chapel Stile, Stickle Barn, Old Dungeon Ghyll, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Pike of Blisco, Lingmoor and Easdale. Once you've got your head round the system, finding crags becomes a doddle and the coloured tabs down the side make life easy for those of us who shun contents pages. Quick glance introductions to the crags and the summary table at the front say everything you need to know about aspect, approach time, routes and conditions, and the myriad of photo's lend the crags a sense of character so choosing a venue is easy. The old chunky plastic cover has been replaced by standard paperback, and longevity on wet trips to Pavey Ark aside (I lied about it never raining), it looks great.
Once at the crag the familiar lengthy descriptions are still present, but they are now much easier to interpret thanks to the accompanying photo topos covering every crag and buttress in the valley. Some of the topos however are more equal than others, and the coloured lines that help to keep track of criss-crossing routes can obscure a little of the detail. Overall though the standard is good and when combined with the comprehensive descriptions route finding shouldn't be a problem. Trad ethics have been adhered to when describing routes and purists will like the minimal gear and move specific beta, although for us mortals it would be nice to know which size of cam to grab in wild desperation. These points do little to detract from a brilliantly researched and well-presented book that not only contains plenty of information, but also acts as a great source of inspiration to newcomers and veterans alike. Photographs in guidebooks often focus on hard or iconic lines that look amazing but leave very little for the average climber to aspire too, it's in keeping with the inclusive flavour of this guide that the photos represent a full spread of grades and are often of less frequented routes providing an extra dimension to many crags.
For me the best attribute a guide can have is to motivate you to go out and climb. After picking up this guide I'd not only discovered many new climbs that I'm now desperate to explore, but also whole crags that I hadn't previously considered. It's just a shame it didn't come out in April.